Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Minute Garland Tree

You need:
18 ft garland, 12" tall styrofoam cone and about 14 straight pins.  
I picked this 18 ft garland for $3.  The cone has been laying around my craft area for the last 4 years waiting.

Lay the garland across the top of the cone and secure with a straight pin.

Start wrapping and pin the first 3 rows. 
Continue wrapping and poke a pin in every 6 rows.

At the bottom put at least 5 straight pins into the last row to hold it in place.

This really did take 5 minutes, and I think it is going to look great with my other decor.  
I think I might whip up a few more in different colors!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Orange Eva Solo Smiley Bowl

Happy Orange Friday!  My hubby brought me this when he was traveling to Denmark for work.  There are a ton of modern design stores there.  He mentioned that if I ever went to Denmark he would hide the credit cards.  Lately this bowl has been holding pretzel M&Ms.  I love to put whole pistachios in the bottom and leave to top open for the empty shells.  My hubby is awesome at finding things I love, of course he usually picks things that are orange.  

Pizza 101: upside down pizza

In the final lesson of Pizza 101 we are going to learn to make upside down pizza.  It is my grand finale to the course.  This pizza has major wow factor.  My parents took us to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company and everything I knew about pizza was changed forever.  They bake your pizza upside down in a bowl.  It rises and bakes into this huge bubble over the bowl and then bring it out and turn it over and uncover your pizza before your eyes.  it is so exciting, like christmas morning.  I still can't figure out how they get the dough to bake so high, but my home version tastes almost as good.  

You can use either ramekins or small bowls with handles like I have here.  Make sure you spray them with cooking spray!

My Mom and I always debate sauce or cheese first, so when I made it this time I tried both.  The red bowls have cheese on the bottom, the white have sauce on the bottom.  I can say with confidence it is cheese first.  It turns out a little prettier, but they are both delicious.  Sprinkle some oregano on the cheese.

At Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company (CP&OGC) their sauce has green peppers and chunky tomatoes, you could add that to your pizza sauce, i just add some diced tomatoes from the can into my pizza sauce.

On top of the sauce you add your toppings.  At CP&OGC they put sausage and mushrooms in their upside down pizzas.  The mushrooms go in raw and they come out magical.  I suggest adding them even if you aren't a mushroom fan, like my hubby.  The liquid that comes off the mushrooms creates a steam inside the pizza and really makes this pizza great.  Of course you can add anything you like in here. Sausage just happens to be one of our favorites if you can't tell.  We joke that in Chicago they count sausage as a vegetable, it is in everything. Make sure you don't fill the bowl all the way to the top with your toppings.  You need to leave space between the toppings and the dough.  

Split your basic dough recipe into 8 balls.  Yes you can make 8 upside down pizzas.  Don't have 8 bowls... then make a thin crust pizza with the leftover dough.  Roll the dough large enough to it over the bowl and hang over about an inch all the way around.  When you put the dough on make sure it doesn't sag into the bowl.  You want it to lay as flat as possible.

Place on a cookie sheet and into a preheated oven at 475 degrees.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is crispy and a little brown.

This is important: let the pizzas sit for at least 3 minutes before you try to flip them.  If you flip them early they will spit molten hot pizza sauce out the sides and make a giant mess in your kitchen and burn your arm.  I learned this the hard way.  

To get them upside down place the plate on top of the crust.  Using an oven mitt, flip the bowl and the plate together so the bowl is inverted.

Use a spoon to release the crust from the bowl.  Work your way around slowly.  Use an oven mitt to pick the bowl up and reveal your pizza.  You may need to use the spoon to redistribute your toppings, sometimes they shift to one side when you flip your pizzas.

The very best part about this pizza is how crispy the crust is.  This is truly an impressive pizza to serve at a party. Everyone can make their own bowl, you can mark them with toothpicks and everyone gets their own special pizza.  

Thanks so much for joining me for Pizza 101.  I had so much fun sharing how I make pizza!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2009 

This picture captures the first time I ever cooked meat with bones in it. I have to say for my first turkey dinner, it was pretty delicious!  My secret was that thermometer that you stick in the meat and beeps when it reaches the temperature set.  That thing is awesome.  This year I am not cooking.  We are joining my hubby's Aunt, Uncle and Cousins for dinner.  

This year I am thankful for the health of my family.  I am thankful for my hubby that works so hard.  I am grateful I can stay home and enjoy every moment with my son.  And I am thankful to have this space to share with you all.  Thank you for reading.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!   

Pizza 101: strombolis and calzones

In today's lesson we will learn how to make strombolis and calzones.  All you need to know is calzone has ricotta cheese, a stromboli doesn't.  You start with the basic dough recipe and you can make all 3 of these strombolis and calzones and have enough dough left over for a small pizza.  I love how customizable there are, but I am sharing my favorite way to stuff them. Since today is Thanksgiving, maybe you could make a Thanksgiving leftover stromboli... 
 Let's make some strombolis and calzones!

Strombolis and calzones start out the same way.  You need a ball of dough that is about 3 inches in diameter.  Then roll out the dough to a 14-18 inch circle.  

Ham and Cheese Calzone:
Top 1/2 of the dough with provolone cheese and ham.  Then drop table spoons of ricotta cheese and top with some mozzarella cheese. 

Fold the dough over top of the toppings making sure to press out all the air.  Fold the edge up and crimp it with your finger.  Make sure there are no gaps, or your filling will leak out.  

Italian Stromboli:
Strombolis can be a half circle or rectangular.  I think that when you are using sliced meats it is easier to do a rectangle.  Plus this is how my Mom did it, so I do it this way too.  Top the center of your dough rectangle with sliced ham and then a layer of pepperoni.  

Next is provolone cheese and salami. Finally sprinkle the top with a little mozzarella cheese.  

Fold the long side in over each other. 
Fold the edges in 2 times.  Make sure there are no gaps or there will be a mess in your oven!

 Spinach and Cheese Stromboli:
The pizza place by me calls this a Spinach roll, I call it delicious.  
Start with a circle of dough rolled out.  Top with mozzarella cheese.  You can use frozen spinach that has been thawed and throughly dried out by squeezing the spinach in a towel.  Or you can wilt some fresh spinach in some minced garlic and olive oil and a little red pepper flakes.  I used fresh spinach here and i drained the excess liquid off.  Both are great options. 

Top with another layer of mozzarella cheese and fold over and crimp the edges.

Now we are ready to bake.  If you are baking a half circle, you need to vent the top.  Poke 3 slits into the top with a knife.  The rectangle doesn't need slits.  Place the strombolis and calzones one at a time in a preheated 450 degree oven on a pizza pan or cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook for 12 minutes and then transfer to the pizza stone.  Cook another 3-6 minutes until the outside is golden brown.  
Slice into pieces and serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Italian Stromboli

Ham and Cheese Calzone

Look at all those layers of meat and cheese.

The ricotta is so creamy in the calzone. This is hubby's favorite.

This is my favorite, I love how it is packed with spinach.

There is only one more class in Pizza 101!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pizza 101: regular crust

In today's lesson we will learn how to make a regular crust pizza.  We have made thin crust and deep dish, but now we need to learn how to make a regular thickness crust that is still crispy on the bottom and has a chewy crust.  Once you learn this crust, there will be no need to pick up that phone and call for mediocre delivery pizza.  
This is my greek pizza.  My bro and his wife make this pizza and suggested i try it.  It is delicious.  Lots of fresh veggies and the feta cheese is the perfect salty surprise on the pizza.  These toppings are heavy and the regular crust stands up to the challenge. 

The pizza is topped with olive oil, spinach sauteed with garlic and red pepper, roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. When I make regular crust, i always leave an inch of crust so I have a handle to eat my heavily topped pizza.

I use my basic dough recipe and it makes two 12 inch pizzas.  If you want more pizzas, double the recipe.  

Regular Crust Instructions:
  1. Start with the basic dough recipe and allow dough to rise.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  3. Split the dough in 2 pieces.
  4. Roll the dough to 12 inches round.
  5. Place dough on pizza pan that has been sprayed with oil. 
  6. Top pizza as you wish.
  7. Bake pizza for 10 minutes on the pan.
  8. Take pizza off the pan and finish cooking on the pizza stone for 3-8 minutes until the pizza reaches your desired crispness.  
  9. Cut pizza in pie pieces.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pizza 101: cheese

In today's lesson we are going to talk cheese.  I have used many different mozzarella cheeses, and I have decided that the best choice is grating your own cheese.  
But if money is no option, then fresh mozzarella is where it's at!
I used this cheese for years.  It is my grocery store brand cheese.  
It is easy and the pizza it makes is good... or so I thought.
Then I bought the same store brand cheese but in a brick that I could grate myself. The brick is 20 cents cheaper, not that big of a savings.  Also, I am a lazy person that doesn't like to wash the grater.  There is a huge difference in the taste of grating yourself.  I guess the powder they coat the bag stuff with so it doesn't clump makes it taste and melt so much differently.  The cheese you grate yourself melts in a magical way and tastes way better!!
From now on I will be washing the grater when I make pizza. 
Maybe I should just get the hubby to do it... hmmmm...

Fresh mozzarella cheese is the most delicious and rich cheese to have on pizza, but it is expensive.  So it is a treat for me to put this on pizza.  If you are going to use fresh mozzarella cheese you need to squeeze the water out of it, or you will have water puddles on your pizza when you cook it.  Water puddles on your pizza are a disaster.  They make the crust soggy in the center and the pizza cooks unevenly and is hard to get onto the pizza stone.  

To squeeze the water out put it on a clean dish towel and on a plate.  Fold the towel over and put another plate on top.  Put the plate in the fridge for a few hours with some condiments on top to weigh it down and squeeze the moisture out of the cheese.  
Class dismissed :)
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